Santa Maria Stella Matutina is a mid 20th century parish church at Via Lucilio 2 in the Trionfale quarter west of Monte Mario. The actual locality is called Il Belsito.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title meaning "Morning Star". This compares her with the planet Venus, heralding the dawn of Christ the sun.
The remote origins of the parish lie with the foundation of a convent and mission centre by the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross (Suore di Carità della Santa Croce) in 1935. They oversaw the building of a convent complex to a design by Tullio Rossi in 1936, which included a church with a basilical plan.
In 1951, the property was handed over to the Jesuits and a new parish founded. The Society only remained in charge for a few years, however, and handed over to diocesan clergy in 1957.
The present church was designed by Ernesto Vichi and Aldo Aloysi, begun in 1969 and completed in the following year. The work entailed the demolition of the former church by Rossi, the rotation of the major axis by ninety degrees and the sequestration of part of the convent cloister to enlarge the floor space available. The present high altar actually stands on what used to be one side of the formerly square cloister garth
Layout and fabric Edit
This church is confusing at first sight, because the street frontage is actually the right hand side of the church. In other words, the major axis is parallel to the street and not perpendicular to it.
The plan is based on a Greek cross with wide arms. The front and back arms have diagonal side walls, with entrance doors in those of the front arm. The sanctuary arm has matching doorways leading into the former convent which contains the sacristy and parish offices.
Attached to the far wall of the left hand arm is a small rectangular extension comprising the Blessed Sacrament chapel, and a tower campanile is tucked into the angle between this and the right hand side of the far wall of the arm.
The fabric comprises a reinforced concrete frame with pink brick infill. Massive L-shaped concrete piers stand at the corners and these support horizontal concrete beams which run round the entire church. However, the roof is gable-pitched over all four cross ends and this entails triangular gaps between the support beams and gables at all four ends of the cross.
The ends of the near and far cross arms each have two narrow piers embedded in the brickwork, which continue through the main beam to support the roof gable. The triangular space above the former and below the gable is filled with window. The left hand end has all the walls in blank brickwork, and the triangular space under the gable of the apse is also in blank brick (no window).
The roof is all in one, and is covered with a black composition. Four ridges meet at a low flat-topped lantern in the shape of an octagon.
The campanile is a simple square brick tower, with two sound-holes on each side at the top. These apertures are pentagonal, with vertical sides and triangular tops. They have very thin stone sills. There is a deep and slightly overhanging stone cornice, and on each corner of this is a pair of projecting cubes. The cap is a low pyramid.
As mentioned, the street façade is the right hand side of the church. The frontage has five concrete piers in the brick wall, including those on the corner, and these are cantilevered out in an inverted L to support a flat and thin floating canopy which occupies the entire width of the frontage. This canopy continues to the right to impinge on a small ancillary building, then round the corner to end at the near entrance (the right hand one from the church's major axis).
The five piers continue up to the gable, where they end in a V-beam. The actual roof protrudes slightly above this. The space between the canopy and the gable consists of a large window. This is deeper than the ones in the near and far ends of the church.
The interior is a single large space, the walls of which are exactly the same as for the exterior. That is, they are in pink brick with grey concrete piers.
The concrete roof is dominant, as it has deep radial beams meeting at the central lantern. These are deliberately intended to evoke the church's name -"Morning star".
The Blessed Sacrament chapel is to the left, and that of Our Lady to the right. The large window to the right has stained glass in its central panel, depicting The Nativity.
The baptistery has a font consisting of a shallow basin on a base formed of two grey granite cubes. The basin has a bronze cover with a fish for a handle. Behind, on the wall is a bronze relief of The Baptism of Christ.
The set of Stations of the Cross is in square bronze relief panels.
The free-standing altar has a base of twelve stacked grey granite cubes, and stands on a sanctuary platform with five steps. On the wall behind it is a crucifix with a bronze corpus. Below this is another tabernacle on a pillar, and the sanctuary lamp for this is on a candlestick formed of a stack of matching cubes (although smaller).
The lectern or ambo has a frontal showing two stylised angels in shallow bronze relief.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:30, 8:30 (not summer), 18:30 (19:30 summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00 (not summer), 11:30, 19:00.